Demand for design services among Midwest architects softened in February, though the region continued to log positive growth for a third consecutive month, according to Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects' Architectural Billings Index (ABI).

The index, reflecting the nine- to 12-month lead time between design and construction, shows that demand for Midwest design services dipped from 50.8 to 50.2 from January to February. An ABI score of 50 or more denotes growing demand for design services. The Midwest has logged growth in eight of the past nine months and in February trailed only the South, where billings slipped from 54.8 to 52.5.

By comparison, the Northeast scored 48, up from 46 in January, and the West scored 46.7, down from 49.3 in January.

Nationally, the index returned to positive territory in February, rising from 49.9 to 50.4. The national index has scored positively in 10 of the past 12 months.

“The health of the institutional market has been the key factor for positive business conditions for the design and construction industry in recent months, and it is encouraging to see that sector remain on solid footing,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “However, we’re seeing some slowing in the other major sectors. Design billings for residential projects had its first negative month in more than three years, and commercial design billings have seen only modest growth in recent years.”

By sector, institutional scored 52.2 in February, followed by commercial / industrial (51.4), multi-family residential (48.9) and  mixed practice (45.3).